I was writing the most recent rentergirl post when I realised something disturbing: it wasn’t funny. No gags at all, not the slightest hint of an eyebrow raised in discreet amusement: no guffaws. Not so much as a stifled giggle.
Now I like a laugh (I’ve even written comedy professionally for broadcast, a genuine low point in my life, but that’s another story.) Some past rentergirl posts were amusing, even if I say so myself but it hasn’t been that way for ages, and I think I know why.
Rented housing in particular is a catastrophe inflicting an undeserved, relentless cascade of perpetual misery to all cursed with enduring its deathless embrace. A teeny-weensy bit melodramatic, perhaps but think about this: even if you are best pals with your chummy, helpful landlord who charges a fair rent and is top of your xmas card list, you never know how long you can stay. Assured Short Term Tenancies (AST’s or accursed short term travesties) lasting a meagre six months are the bane of every long-suffering renter’s life.
Another factor sucking joy from every benighted renter’s soul is housing benefit. People on imposed short term contracts, or made redundant find that when work dries up, or has vanished, they must sign on – yes, Mr Big City Big-Shot – even you are not immune to the dole.
Claimants scrabble to find work, and need enough to cover rent in order to avoid moving, which is costly. In any case landlords don’t want those nasty ‘scroungers’ (©Condems/Daily Mail) they want ‘grafters’ (©Blue Labour.) Sadly, Housing Benefit is set to be effectively abolished, replaced by a ‘housing component’ allocated for rent under strict and unrealistically low limits. This is going to be like a watching a slow, massive pile-up in close-up – albeit one that was predicted and preventable. That’s not to mention current odious and unworkable housing benefit caps.
Even less amusing is housing minister Grant Shapps: a man who might – to use a technical term – accurately be described as an idiot. He wants us to live on boats. Or help people buy houses when (I’m try hard not to shout but failing: that’s what caused this mess to start with!!)
Still, I want to be light hearted. My own situation has been far from a constant fountain of joy interspersed with intervals of unbridled happiness since…well, forever. But what’s to become of us renters?
Rented housing is a nightmare of repossessions, evictions, insecurity (landlords can and do give notice on childish, irrational and vengeful whims which renters cannot contest) ramped and escalating rents, shoddy standards, even landlords from hell (a rarity, but they exist) not enough suitable homes to go round, housing benefit caps, substandard newbuilds/euroboxes, the smallest homes in Western Europe, no more social housing, buy-to-let amateurs/right-to-buy chancers, letting agents (untrained and unregulated) who charge complex, fanciful, astronomical fees and have slowly eaten all the houses.
I want to laugh. I want to smile. But it just isn’t funny. Not funny at all.
Anyway: here are some more amusing posts. I used to laugh…(I'd post them as links, but Safari won't play ball.)